Amy Coney Barrett steers the Supreme Court to the right, but not toward President Trump
WASHINGTON - To hear the Democrats, President Donald Trump tried Amy Coney Barrett before the Supreme Court this fall to destroy the Affordable Care Act and stand up in all litigation against a controversial election.
Two months into Barrett's tenure, these fears seem unfounded. However, the Conservatives remain confident that they will advance the cause of religious freedom, expand Second Amendment rights, and consolidate a Conservative majority in the nation's Supreme Court.
You have reason to be confident. As the successor to the late Liberal Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barrett made the difference last month in a 5-4 ruling blocking stringent COVID-19 limits for religious gatherings in New York. That ruling set a precedent that the court has since used in California, New Jersey, and Colorado.
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But the 48-year-old former federal appellate judge and professor of law has held back a week before election day since joining the court, leaving little clue as to what kind of associate justice she will be for decades to come.
More: New Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett could have an immediate impact on American democracy
This low profile came about amid an avalanche of high profile cases and controversy. During her second week on the country's highest bank, the court heard a major case in which religious freedom was weighed against the rights of homosexuals. The next week brought the third major legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act in eight years.
The judges were also forced to respond to a series of emergency motions questioning President-elect Joe Biden's victory, state coronavirus restrictions and impending executions. Last week, they postponed a final decision on the Trump administration's efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census used to split the seats in Congress.
President Donald Trump watches Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas swear in the judiciary, Amy Coney Barrett, on October 26, 2020.
"She jumped right into the action. It must have been very, very challenging," said Ed Whelan, president of the Conservative Ethics and Politics Center.
Barrett also faced heightened scrutiny for replacing Ginsburg, a liberal icon who led a valiant battle against pancreatic cancer in hopes of surviving Trump's presidency. Barrett's was the first nomination to change the court's ideological balance in nearly 30 years, and based on Biden's subsequent election, it came on time for Conservatives.
More: Six Conservative Judges? 10 ways the Supreme Court could change
"Your confirmation could open a new chapter in conservative right-wing activism the likes of which we have not seen in decades," warned Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware during Barrett's confirmation hearing. "It could touch virtually any aspect of modern American life."
So perhaps it was not surprising that Barrett, an Indiana resident who teaches at Notre Dame, spent her first few weeks in court digging into the details of the cases rather than attracting public attention. On her first day of the hearing, she showed a mastery of the details.
"So when you think about the 231g question and whether denying a reopening request determines rights or obligations," she said, "I think if you look at 261.2 and the regulations, if you think about 261.2 (b) You know, if a denial is essentially the conclusion that there was no new or substantial evidence of error, then I can see how that qualifies as a determination of a right or a liability. "
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